Malaysia Airlines flight 17

Australian troops to help secure flight MH17 crash site in Ukraine

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says 90 Australian police are in Europe and ready to travel on to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to secure human remains and personal effects

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2014, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 4:29am

Australian troops plan to join a police contingent helping to secure the site in Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday.

He stressed the mission would be humanitarian in nature.

Abbott has criticised the response on the ground to the downing of the plane, which was carrying 298 people when it was shot down in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

About 90 Australian Federal Police have already been deployed to Europe for a planned international mission to help secure the wreckage and retrieve bodies. A further 100 were to leave yesterday to participate in the operation and "do the right thing by the grieving families", Abbott said. Canberra was close to finalising an agreement with Ukraine for deployment of the officers.

"Many of the police deployed won't be armed. Some of them could be armed," Abbott said.

"And, yes, there will be some ADF (Australian Defence Force personnel) as part of this deployment, should it go ahead."

Abbott's office later confirmed the defence personnel were troops.

The majority of those on flight MH17 were Dutch, but 28 Australians and nine permanent residents of Australia were also on the plane.

"This is a humanitarian mission with a clear and simple objective, to bring them home," Abbott said. "All we want to do is to claim our dead and to bring them home." He added that given human remains were still to be recovered, it was "more important than ever" that the site be properly secured.

"I expect the operation on the ground in Ukraine, should the deployment go ahead, to last no longer than a few weeks."

The prime minister said he had spoken twice to Russian President Vladimir Putin since the tragedy occurred last week.

"President Putin has been full of sympathy, as you would expect from another human being, for what's happened to 37 families in Australia," Abbott said.

"And he certainly has been publicly and privately supportive of securing the site so that the full impartial investigation ... can be completed and all of the bodies can be brought home."